Sunday, 22 December 2013

Day 183 - Kungur through Chusovoy to Kuchino - Sun 25 Aug, 2013

Day 183 - Kungur through Chusovoy to Kuchino - Sun 25 Aug, 2013
Arrived early for Kungur Ice Caves morning tour, 14⁰ outside but ‒ 2⁰ inside. Brrr - wore thermals, vest and boots but still chilly on exposed hands and noses. Ice stalactites, sparkling crystal rock formations, pretty grottos, lakes, animal shapes/ shadows, legends of cave deaths and haunting spirits. 

True to form, the Russian woman guide rarely smiled. The English speakers among the group did not understand her instruction for “a minute’s silence to appreciate the complete absence of light and sound”, then the lights went out and she tut-tutted at chatter and camera lights still glowing in dark. Fortunately another girl in the group took pity and translated - she has a small travel agency and enjoys talking to people (a rare Russian!) 

Drove on to Chusovoy, most northerly point at 58⁰ of this 2013 trip!! 

Picked up groceries and beer, then drove the further 20km to Kuchino, met Miles and Marina outside memorial - Perm 36, the last Gulag in Russia from USSR era. Miles  and Marina had been through in the morning and let us know some of the facts:

·         Operated 35+ years from 1943 to 1988
·         Part of Perm Gulag triangle, including camp 35, and 37
·         Originally a logging prison camp, then added dissidents who spoke against Communist regime, (or smiled in wrong place, wrong time), and after Stalin’s death his sympathisers were interned. Finally the prison population was all political prisoners kept in harsh conditions isolated in narrow cells with no view, walked two steps to work assembling electrical irons, only exercised 45 mins week in even smaller enclosure with view of sky through network of razor wire

          5 layers of fences, incl electrical fence, outside perimeter fence camouflaged, sentry towers all corners, in exercise yard, and overlooking general population
·         Most " dangerous" political prisoners in last building with spiked barrier gate
·         Perm 36, the last Gulag in Russia/ Siberia - most were razed in late 1980s
Hard to believe all this inhumanity happened in our own lifetime (rather than in the relatively unenlightened days of history). 

Camped out of village along river, very busy with families and fisherman until dark. Put washing in barrel. Sat with MnM and caught up with each others stories. Both tired, so had "just add boiling water" camping meal - awful (but appreciated very much our lifestyle and freedom to choose...)

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